The Royal Albert Asylum And A Little Boy
Two photos I added to my collection recently really brought home to me changes in our society over the last 100 years. They were of two brothers Fergus Kay Crook and Laurence Gilmer Crooks taken in the 1920s. The sons of Robert Kay Crooks and his second wife Edith Margaret Crooks (Nee Smith) they were born in Wigan Lancashire at a time after so many families had been torn apart. Sadly the eldest son Fergus was born with what would be called today a learning disability. In the 1920s however, it was a different time. He must have been so loved. His parent took him to the same studio as his brother to have his portrait taken but over the next few years the bothers paths separated. Lawrence lived with his parents but by the time of the 1939 register Fergus was registered at the Royal Albert Asylum. The hospital was built between 1868 and 1873 and was originally called "The Royal Albert Asylum for idiots and imbeciles of the seven northern counties" It's hard to even imagine a time when this was considered an acceptable title for an institution. The hospital was established under the Lunacy Act 1845, at a time when there was little understanding of the difference between learning difficulties and mental illness but by 1909 it had been renamed "The Royal Albert Institution, Lancaster". There was no mainstream schooling for children such as Fergus in those days and there would have probably been little choice for his parents but an institution.
Fergus's younger brother Laurence appears not to have married or had children. He lived in Wigan all his life coincidentally dying exactly three months to the day, in December 1981, after Fergus aged 60. Both brothers are buried in Lower Ince Cemetery in Wigan. I really hope they are together.
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